The Inhospitable CityPublic spaces are under threat: shrunk, sold off, and abandoned in favor of their virtual alternatives. What do we stand to lose?

The Inhospitable CityPublic spaces are under threat: shrunk, sold off, and abandoned in favor of their virtual alternatives. What do we stand to lose?

Issue 30

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Arts & Culture

It is an uncomfortable fact that the social contact our public spaces once gave us is no longer beyond our front door but at our fingertips. The town square is now social media, the park bench is the comment thread, the picnic blanket is the WhatsApp group. Glance around any city and you’ll see more people engrossed in their virtual lives than engaged in the public realm before them.

What happens when virtual space is a more compelling refuge than public space? What then for our urban experience and quality of life? Public space is and always has been a vital part of the city. From the temple to the forum, the piazza to the park, for as long as cities have existed, the need for citizens to gather together (and alone) in public has been recognized and accommodated as a basic right. Be...

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